Writing in Foreign Affairs, Martin Wolf expresses the view: "The modern form of globalisation will not spell the end of the modern nation-state. International economic integration magnifies the difference between good and bad states failed states, disorderly states, weak states and corrupt states are shunned as the black holes of the global economic system Global governance will come not at the expense of the state but rather as an expression of the interests that the state embodies. As the source of order and basis of governance, the State will remain in the future as effective, and will be as essential, as it has ever been."
The cohesive nature and autonomy of the nationstate 1s being progressively eroded by the changes in the socio-political and socioeconomic environment. The free movement of goods and services and the speed and ease with which money can be transferred electronically across the continents are gradually making regional groupings like the European Union more viable political entities than individual countries.
In a perceptive essay entitled “The Shape of the World”, The Economist (23 December 19956 January 1996) had stated: “The idea that nation-states, wishing to belong to something bigger, will gather together into big, new entities, each speaking for the culture or civilisations of its component parts, is a long way off from being realised.” Only in Western Europe is there any seriously conceived plan to dissolve existing nationStates into something bigger and, “Even this European experiment may now be running into the sands. The world does not, in short, seem to be heading for that fearful clash civilisations .”
However, a large number of analysts have begun to question the concept of nation-states. Quoting Jean Marie Guehenno, a senior French diplomat who is now the TN Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, JN Dixit has written that nation-states are becoming irrelevant: “A new imperial age is in the making where power and influence will accrue to entities and communities with advanced technologies and information capabilities These will transcend existing geo-political boundaries and, regardless of their size and strength, existing nation-states will have to cope with this transition.
From Margaret Thatchers free market policies and Reagan’s supply side economics in the West to Deng Xiaoping’s “socialist market economy” in the East, deregulation has transformed the worlds economy and, consequently, its geopolitics. There is an increasing trend towards forming regional economic and trade groupings based on preferential trade agreements and mutually agreed tariffs, leading to an unprecedented increase in regional trade. This is evident from the European Union, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Association of South East Asian Nations, the South Asian Ocean Rim Block, the proposed economic group for the Indian Ocean rim countries in Asia and Africa. Benazir Bhutto recently called for a South Asian Free Economic Zone on the pattern of the European Union, to be eventually enlarged into an Asian Free Economic Zone that would include China. The existing regional groupings are likely to be soon joined by other trade pacts in the South American and African continents.
Regional economic groupings are bound to have a profound long-term impact on the future of the nation-state. Some thinkers are of the view that the future belongs to region states” based on economic rather than political borders. Kenichi Ohmae, a Japanese scholar and management consultant, has expressed such a view in his book The End of the Nation State: The Rise of Regional Economics: “Traditional nation-states have become unnatural, even impossible, business units in a global economy…
‘Region states’ are more relevant… What defines them is not the location of their political borders but the fact that they are the right size and scale to be true, natural business units in today’s global economy… Theirs are the borders — and connections — that matter in a borderless world”.
Ohmae contends that four great forces — capital, corporations, consumers and communication — have combined to usurp the economic power once held by the nation-state as these can all freely criss-cross national borders. However, the real weakness in Ohmae’s argument about the reality of a borderless global economy is that he assumes. an identity of interests between what he terms are the four ‘I’s — investment, industry, information technology and the individual consumer. Such an identity of interests is increasingly under pressure from protectionist trade policies on the one hand and strident calls for fair trade on the other.
Events in the last decade of the 20th century starkly highlighted the dangers of the reemergence of ethnic nationalism, another major factor in the decline of the nation-state.
Due to the contradictions of history, ethnic nationalism has always been a latent force — a dormant volcano with the potential to explode without warning. Ethnic populations have always straddled international boundaries. The Cold War somehow succeeded in suppressing ethnicity and kept a lid on its separatist tendencies. The rising flames of ethnic nationalism in the Balkans, Chechnya, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia in the Caucasus, among others, and the racial turbulence in South Africa, are threatening regional security with daily doses of mindless violence. Any international encouragement of ethnic nationalism now would produce violent disorder and human misery on a mind-boggling scale, even assuming that it is somehow possible to uproot large masses of people or transfer them from one country to another.
An even bigger blow to the concept of the nation-state is likely to come from the “mega-media’ revolution, spawned by the advances in digital communications and fanned by the unbridled power of the internet. The Internet has created international cyber-citizens — net-surfers who co-exist in a borderless cyber-state. By encouraging openness, greater tolerance, respect for diversity, wider participation, smarter thinking and approval of change, the Internet 1s gradually moving people towards the “one people, one planet’ point of evolution. This “electronic liberation” of the individual is gradually creating a new power structure.
Spectacular advances in information technology over the last decade are changing the whole nature of political governance and its relationship with commerce. Commerce itself has been materially affected by the arrival of the information superhighway, the internet, the impact of multimedia on marketing and direct sales and the far-reaching advances in telecommunications technology which have turned the world into a global village virtually overnight.
The world’s rapid transit to globalisation, spurred by the international integration of production of goods and services, the free flow of people, information and capital, giant leaps in communications and the diffusion of power to non-state actors, is bound to have an impact on the future of nation-states. However, the impact need not be entirely negative. Writing in Foreign Affairs (January-February 2001), Martin Wolf expresses the view: “The modern form of globalisation will not spell the end of the modern nation-state. International economic integration magnifies the difference between good and bad states… failed states, disorderly states, weak states and corrupt states are shunned as the black holes of the global economic system… Global governance will come not at the expense of the state but rather as an expression of the interests that the state embodies. As the source of order and basis of governance, the State will remain in the future as effective, and will be as essential, as it has ever been.”
MNCs and NGOs
Another factor for nation-states to contend with is the emergence of powerful multinational corporations and nongovernmental organisations. Today, MNCs and NGOs transcend national borders and exercise immense power over the people whose lives they touch.
NGOs are becoming a force to reckon with as their ability to mobilise the public as well as public opinion has been increasing exponentially thanks to the multi-media revolution. The mass demonstrations witnessed at the Seattle WI’O meeting in November 1999 and at the Prague IMF-World Bank meeting in September 2000, symbolised the power of NGOs to mobilise disparate groups and harness their energies for a backlash against globalisation. It would not be far-fetched to predict that MNCs may eventually raise their own armed militias to protect their commercial interests, particularly in war-ravaged regions in the Third World. Such tendencies need to be closely watched and guarded against.
Any socio-political crystal-gazing must take into account not only the post-Cold War power equations and economic globalisation, but also the challenges of economic want, terrorism, mass migration and trans-national crime. Though there is a clear lack of agreement among scholars, diplomats and analysts regarding the shape of the nation-state in the new millennium, what is clear is that change is inevitable. But though the emerging challenges to the survival of the nation-state are quite powerful, the nation-state is likely to have greater durability than is being imagined at present. The conventional! idea of sovereign inviolability, that goes back to the Peace of Augsburg in 1555 and to the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, is unlikely to be jettisoned in a hurry.